This spectacularly exhaustive, overlong but often fascinating doc offers an inside glimpse at a cross-section of Rio de Janeiro’s heterogeneous population, using the simple idea of interviewing inhabitants of a huge apartment building off Copacabana beach in the heart of town. Results are as funny as they are informative. With a more rigorous editing job to eliminate repetitions, film could do much more traveling than is likely in its present state. Pic was released theatrically in Brazil, and acclaimed for its closeness to everyday life.
The 12-storey Master Building houses 276 small apartments; 37 residents open their doors to Eduardo Coutinho’s inquisitive camera crew and tell their stories, recite their poetry or sing favorite songs. They’re a sundry bunch, eccentric and loquacious as New Yorkers. Opening sets the stage with one woman’s laughing tale of the murders, suicides and robberies that have taken place there. A young prostitute movingly tells the sad story of her life. Many residents are elderly and plagued by solitude; several have relatives living in the U.S.; everybody seems to have money problems. Ennui sets in toward pic’s end, when one song too many tips the balance.